Belarus police detain opposition leader protesting election outcome+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)MINSK, March 25_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING)

Belarus police detained an opposition leader Saturday as thousands rallied in Minsk against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko citing irregularity in his winning a third term in a presidential election last Sunday, media reports said.

Itar-Tass news agency reported opposition presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin was detained. Interfax news agency said another opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich was detained but his office denied the report.

Both opposition leaders were announced to have been heavily defeated in the election.

Several people were injured in a clash with the police, according to the reports.

Earlier in the day, Milinkevich called for creating a free Belarus without waiting for the expiration of another five years of Lukashenko in office.

The opposition camp initially planned to hold a rally Saturday in a square in the center of the capital, but changed the location to a park after the police banned entry to the square saying they would remove snow.

The United States, Europe and Japan all criticized the election this week, citing reports from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the election fell far short of international standards.